Image credit: Richard Eriksson, used under Creative Commons license.
From arguing that anti-environmentalists don't hate the environment, to lamenting the constant finger pointing at "eco-villains", I have a tendency to seek compromise and to hope that we can all "just get along" when it comes to natural systems we rely on for survival. But a number of factors have recently got me wondering whether that is truly wise. From Brian's post on why the Tea Party and environmentalism are mutually exclusive to Lloyd's review of right wing Agenda 21 paranoia, there is plenty of evidence of an us and them reality. Maybe we shouldn't seek compromise—maybe we should seek victory. This reflection on the role, or not, of compromise in the search for sustainability was compounded by the recent debt ceiling debate. As a friend pointed out over the weekend, while "bipartisanship" may sound appealing and grown up, it all too often involves abandoning the most crucial elements of the platform you stand on, pleasing nobody, and ending up with an ineffectual result. After all, is it really possible to seek compromise with political ideologies that see individual property rights as sacrosanct, reject the current state of scientific knowledge, and seem oblivious to the notion of any kind of commons.
Yet we also cannot simply impose our views on people who consider the environment to be a God-given resource ripe for exploitation and dominion.
Key to moving forward is not to choose the path of compromise, nor to reject it entirely—but rather to keep an eye on the most likely path to strategic victory. Also key is to keep the debate centered on outcomes and issues, not people and ideologies. (By all means reject the Tea Party's anti-Government fanaticism, but not the people who are attracted by it.) And finally it is about realizing that finding common ground is not the same thing as surrendering to compromise.
Finding common ground means framing the debate in terms of protecting our children's future, our communities' well-being, and the resources we depend on. It means insisting on evidence-based discussion and outcomes-focused decision making. And it means staying aware of our own cultural biases and filters too.
Compromise will always be necessary, both between allies, and between those who seek to prevent progress. But it is one tool among many—not a goal in itself. And that toolbox includes confrontation too. The trick is knowing when to use which tool, and how.
More on Environmentalism, Ideology and Strategy
What's the Difference Between Environmentalists and Climate Change Deniers?
Anti-Environmentalists Don't Hate the Environment
Who Are the Real Eco-Villains?
You Can't Be a Tea Partier and an Environmentalist. Sorry.